Born in Scotland, John Pumphrey read German and Russian at Oxford University (1998-2002), where he was a scholar at St. Edmund Hall. He worked as a school teacher and Head of German at Winchester College in Hampshire before making the decision to devote himself to singing full time.
From 2007–2009 he studied opera on a full scholarship with Stephen Robertson at the Alexander Gibson Opera School at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. He was a member of the Flanders Opera Studio in Belgium from 2009–2010, and of the Opera Studio of the Opéra National du Rhin in Strasbourg from 2010-2012.
At the RSAMD he performed Ferrando in Cosi fan Tutte, Truffaldino in Prokoviev’s For the Love of Three Oranges, and Brighella in Ariadne auf Naxos. Whilst completing his studies he also sang Prunier and Gobin in Puccini’s La Rondine with British Youth Opera. At the Opera Studios in Gent and Strasbourg his roles included Oronte in Alcina, Ernesto in Don Pasquale, Nadir in Ali Baba et les Quarante Voleurs by Cherubini, Jean in Le Chat Botté by César Cui, and supporting roles in Ambroise Thomas’s Hamlet, Rossini’s L’Occasione fa il Ladro, Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, and in Der Rosenkavalier, working with conductors such as Daniele Callegari and Patrick Fournillier, and stage directors such as Olivier Py, Mariame Clément and Robert Carsen.
Since finishing his time at Opera Studio he has sung Spoletta in Tosca with the Opéra National du Rhin, and Pasek in The Cunning Little Vixen with the ONR and at the Semperoper in Dresden. Currently he is a member of the solo ensemble at the Theater Plauen-Zwickau in Saxony, where his roles to date have included Don Basilio in The Marriage of Figaro, Remendado in Carmen, Normanno in Lucia di Lamermoor, Count Stanislaus in Carl Zeller’s The Bird Seller, Cherubino in Cherubino Mischt sich Ein, Prince Saphir in Offenbach’s Bluebeard, Ecclitico in Haydn’s Mondo della Luna, Doctor Siedler in Im Weißen Rössl (Benatzky), Kadi Mustapha in The Barber of Bagdad (Cornelius), Pygmalion in The Beautiful Galatea (von Suppé) and Beppe in Pagliacci.
In 2015 John performed the title role in The Tales of Hoffmann with the Opernakademie Bad Orb near Frankfurt am Main.
As a concert singer John was a winner of the Tony and Tania Webster Prize for Russian song and the Hugh Robertson Award for Scots Song while at the RSAMD. He was a soloist in Vaughan-Williams Serenade to Music at the BBC Proms in 2010 with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles at the Royal Albert Hall in London. He has performed in numerous oratorios, including the evangelist and tenor arias in Bach’s Saint John Passion and The Christmas Oratorio, and the solo tenor parts in Handel’s Messiah, Puccini’s Messa di Gloria and Dvorak’s Stabat Mater with choral societies in the UK, Belgium and Germany. He has a broad repertoire of art song in various languages, and sang in a thanksgiving service for the life of Robert Burns broadcast worldwide from Glasgow Cathedral as part of the Homecoming Celebrations in 2009. In October 2013 he won the Gabriel Fauré-Déodat de Séverac prize at the Concours International d'Interprétation de la Mélodie Française in Toulouse.
He has participated in masterclasses with Sir Thomas Allen, Sarah Walker, Christoph Prégardien, Thomas Quasthoff, Ian Storey, Françoise Pollet, Malcolm Martineau, Roger Vignoles and Graham Johnson. He is a Samling Scholar. His studies in Scotland and Belgium were generously supported by the Sir James Caird Trust, the Katherine Trust, the William Barry Trust, the Oppenheim-John Downes Memorial Trust and the Rooibus Foundation.